Top Line Summary

  • Positive McGregor update
  • Confirms Maeda and Scales are out
  • Addresses pressure
  • Praises fans' pre-derby display
  • Admits he wants to appoint loan pathway employee

Everything Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said to the media ahead of his side's game versus St Mirren on Saturday afternoon...

Are you a believer in scoreboard pressure? Seeing as how the game was postponed in midweek you now have a chance to go four points clear with a win against St Mirren.

I believe in where you aim to finish at the end of the season. How you collect your points is all that matters. I saw the game (Dundee v Rangers) was postponed which is unfortunate for the two managers as you make your preparations for the games. You can only ever concentrate on your own team and doing your own job.

The old phrase 'sporting integrity' has been thrown out with suggestions that not getting the pre-split games done altogether has damaged the integrity of the competition. Do you think that is a fair argument?

All I know is during both times I have been up here, the games have always had to be complete before the split. That is the only thing that has ever been made clear. It is unfortunate but it is something that the league will have to try and control.

You could potentially have to go to Dundee after the split. How do you view the challenge that could arise with all the issues surrounding the pitch that have been spoken about in the last week?

I've not thought one iota about it if I am honest. We know that we will have five games in the split once it comes and they'll all be tough games. Wherever we have to go to I am not thinking any more or any less on that.

Do you think this has been damaging for the league?

Well, it is not a great look. I think both games were to be televised, especially in April. I know we have had a wee bit of rain but you'd still expect to be able to get the game on. There is clearly a big issue with the pitch. I am sure Tony (Docherty) and his football staff can control. We were up there very early on in the season, in September, and it was very slippery and it was not what it used to be. I know from my first time here, I always felt that Dundee was one of the best pitches. It was a big open space to play in and the pitch was always in a good condition. It is not a good look. It is something that I have always talked about up here and that is the standard football pitches. They have to be at the highest possible level to produce the best football that we can to entertain the supporters because that's our job.

How did Callum (McGregor) come through Sunday's game?

He came through it well. We are still clearly managing him. He did absolutely incredible to be available for the game because the timeline was beyond Rangers but he worked so hard and he wanted to put himself out there. He only trained a few days coming into the game. I think this week has been another good week for him but we just have to manage it. He is not out of the woods at all and we have to manage where he is at. I saw him in training this morning and he looked really good. It is also recognising that he'd been out quite a long time. It doesn't matter who you are if you've missed five-odd weeks of training then you are not going to be at your best level football fitness-wise. This week he has shown up very well.

Daizen Maeda is another one? Is he carrying an injury?

We have got a few. Daizen will miss the weekend. So we will need to see how he is. He picked up an injury high up on his hamstring and his tendon. We will have to see what that looks like over the coming weeks. He is certainly not available for the weekend. Liam Scales has picked up a slight strain in his abductor so the likelihood is that he won't be involved tomorrow.

Will Daizen need to see a specialist or is it something you will just have to watch?

Yes, it is something the medical team will look at. We'll see where that goes in the next week or then we will have a better understanding of the inclusion he will have between now and the end of the season.

Do you feel the team is in a good place after Sunday?

Yes, very good. I was really pleased at the time and after coming away and analysing the game logically as well. I thought the integrity of the team, how they played and how they conducted themselves in the game was absolutely fantastic. From the start of the game, we were attack-minded. We had to go through moments of pressure and that is when you really need to dig in and bite on the gumshield and take it. We did that very, very well. We came through that and looked like we could win the game. I was so, so pleased. I always maintain it is the hardest place to go as a Celtic player when you go to Ibrox, especially with no supporters. To go there and deliver that performance which highlighted lots of good parts of our game with and without the ball. We know we have lots of difficult fixtures to come but when that fixture comes round again, the energy of 60,000 people and what that will give us at home makes me think that we are in a really good place.

There were a couple of off-the-pitch incidents. A bottle was thrown at Matt (O'Riley) and coins were launched at the dugout. How concerning is that?

That is exactly what I said. I think the integrity of the team on the field and the staff off of it was exemplary. That's what we want. These situations off the pitch are not ideal. Our integrity off it was superb.

For the team that wins the league, how perfect will their run-in have to be with it being so tight?

It's exciting. I think each game will be exciting. We are excited by that and we are really bringing our big level now to the games and getting important players back and functioning well. As we showed in the first 55 minutes of the game, we were outstanding in our football and our intensity and real attacking mindset. We can only look at ourselves and go into each game looking to produce that level of performance.

Is it a major blow to lose Daizen and a worry at this stage of the season?

Not really. He's done great. He's done fantastic for us and he was very, very good last weekend. If it is to be that he is out there will be an opportunity there for someone else to come into the game. What he brings the intensity of the press and all that side of it is big for us. It is an opportunity for other players to step up and bring that level of intensity and bring their individual brilliance to the game. It is something that you can't afford to dwell on too much. We have had a lot this year with key players being out but you still have to continue. I am liking what I am seeing with the team at the moment - the focus, the energy and the quality that we are showing and we will look to bring that against St Mirren.

Is Luis Palma ready to start?

Well, he’s available, which is important. He’d only had a few days of training last week leading into that game, but he’s had a really good week to 10-12 days now, so he’ll come into the squad tomorrow.

Brendan, what did you think of the fans on Saturday afternoon turning up at Celtic Park, and what impact did it have on the players?

It was a big impact. It was absolutely amazing. They told me here that when we get to the stadium there’ll be a couple hundred supporters there to greet us. Then I got a call as I was coming up towards the stadium saying they’d miscalculated it, and there were a few more! When I turned in and I saw the lights and everyone it was such a huge lift. Did it surprise me? No. The support of the club is incredible and without being able to be at the stadium, that was their way of giving us a great send-off. I know - especially a lot of the new guys - were taken aback by that, as was I, because it gave us that real lift driving away.

What’s your message to the support for the remaining games of this season? 

Just keep the faith and keep giving us that incredible support, because it really makes the difference. I’m sure there’ll be some edgy moments in the six games and in the cup game, but just keep the faith and keep with the team and give us everything, and we’ll give you everything back on the pitch. 

Mikey Johnston has just won the Championship Player of the Month. I asked Adam about how Celtic would perform in the Championship and to compare the two divisions. What are your thoughts?

I would echo those thoughts. We’ve shown what we can do. You look at Atletico Madrid the other night in the Quarter-Final of the Champions League and we ran them very close, certainly in the home game. The size of this club would always make you compete well in the Premier League. You’d have all the resources and all the finances involved that would see you up there towards the top of the league. In terms of Mikey, shifting onto him, I’m absolutely delighted for him, because he’s a young player that I always said I rated highly. It’s been a challenge for him the past couple of years with injuries and having to go out on loan to play. The first six months of his time here l, I said to him ‘Just prove that you’re fit and have the fitness level to sustain and train every day and be able to be available for games.’ In fairness to him, he did that, and by the end, he was contributing for us. He really needed games, he’s 24 years of age and needed to get out and play. What he’s shown and demonstrated is no surprise. I said it before, he’s one of the best talents to come out of the academy. He’s quick, he’s direct and he can score goals. For him to go there and get that award - with some outstanding players in the Championship - it shows you how well he’s done. Hopefully, he can continue with that and come back to here in the summer and be really energised again and full of confidence and be ready to make an impact.

Brendan, the club are looking to reshape scouting and recruitment and so on. Are you involved yourself in that and are you able to think about the future when you’re embroiled in the season?

Yeah, absolutely. I'm a part of that process of course. You’re always thinking short, medium and longer-term, especially when you want to be here for that longer term. I’d love that opportunity to help shape that. I’ve got a lot of experience in the game. The game is moving and changing all the time and I want to try and offer opportunities here for more of our younger players. In order to do that, you need to plan that and you need to have everything in place that is going to give those guys the opportunity. We need to take a greater focus on our loan players. We’ll have someone in a role that comes in and works specifically on that and working with those young players and others that are out on loan and helping that pathway into the first-team be clearer. I’m very much a part of that.

Are you getting closer to making some appointments? 

We still have some very good staff here that are working, and some staff that were looking to bring in behind the scenes, and that will continue. We don’t go shouting about it, we’ll tell you, and we’ll be done, but there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes in order to do that. 

Any thoughts on Adam Idah’s long-term future?

I’m delighted for him. He looks like he’s loving his time here and enjoying it. I communicate regularly with him. The whole idea was to get through to the end of the season and bring him here. I felt like his impact could not only help the team but his strikers here.‘it’s no coincidence that Kyogo’s game has gone to another level again with that competition of bringing Adam in. I think you’ve got two different types of strikers. One that’s penetration and movement is sublime and he can score a goal and then another that can run in behind, but he’s more of a target player who can take the ball in but can also score goals. To have that ability to change the game in that manner either way and looking at each game and what that game may require. It’s brilliant to have Adam here with the other strikers. For me, he’s made a great impact. He certainly has all of the tools and the potential. I know he’s enjoying it here and he’s enjoying the pressure of being here. He’s responded to it really well. 

That sounds like someone you’d like to keep longer term.

The player was available for loan, and he’s come out to here and enjoyed his time and come the end of the season we’ll sit down and we’ll see where we’re at and take it from there.